Monthly Archives: July 2017

Feelings, unique and in perspective

All that you feel has been felt before. Depending on the feeling, somewhere between hundreds and billions of people have felt it and its variations before. And many more will feel it in the future.

Seeing this helps you keep things in perspective.

But you can only feel what you feel as an individual. You cannot access the feelings of those that came before you, those that will come after you, or those lives with whom your life overlaps. So, from your perspective, your feelings are uniquely meaningful.

Seeing this helps you immerse yourself in all that life has to offer.

Learning from your and others’ experiences

There are two ways to learn. The first is from the experiences of others and the second is from your own experiences.

The advantage of the first is that, since multiple people have more experiences than a single individual, you can learn more faster by relying on others’ experiences.

The challenge is that it’s harder to learn from others’ experiences than it is to learn from your own. The reasons for this are that you’re more likely to discount others’ experiences by thinking that they don’t apply to you, and even if you don’t discount them, it’s difficult to internalize the learnings of others’ experiences without having felt the pleasures and pains which result from having lived through them.

In other words, others’ experiences provide breadth while your own experiences provide depth. Once you appreciate the benefits and shortcomings of each, you recognize that both are necessary.

When to prioritize investors during your fundraising process

I was recently speaking with a Turkish entrepreneur about the company’s fundraising when he asked which funds he should prioritize. The company has started discussions but has yet to receive a term sheet from any fund.

In a market where capital is plenty and there are many funds, you’re unlikely to have the time to have deep discussions with each. As a result, you need to prioritize who you reach out to and have deep dives with, even before receiving a term sheet.

However, in a market like Turkey where there are less than a dozen tech startup investors with the capacity to invest a sizable amount in your company, you can actually have deep dives with each interested investor. In fact, you should until you receive a term sheet.

The reason is that if you prioritize before receiving a term sheet and the funds you prioritized don’t come through, you’ll have to start from scratch with the unprioritized funds. This means, at best, a delay in closing the funding which will grow your business, and, at worst, not enough time to close the funding necessary for your business to survive.

Once you hopefully have multiple term sheets in hand, that’s when you should prioritize. Not before.

Inaction

We live in a time period where technology has greatly increased our productivity. This means that, on an individual basis, we can get things done much faster than before.

Thanks to the content available on the internet, we can learn faster than before.

Thanks to the extensive storage and processing capabilities of software and hardware, we can apply our learnings to quickly produce outputs from inputs.

And thanks to online communication tools like email and messaging apps, we can instantaneously relay the outputs we produce, and the decisions based on these outputs, to the people we interact with.

In other words, technology makes it easy to act fast.

However, acting fast isn’t always in our interest.

Although there is a limitless amount of content that we can learn from, our brains remain single track processors that need to recharge regularly. We therefore need to choose what to learn, and allow enough time for the learning to actually take place.

Although we have, for most practical purposes, virtually infinite storage and processing capabilities, that doesn’t mean that we should store and process everything.  We need to ask the right questions based on our learnings in order to store and process data that’s likely to produce meaningful answers. We also need to cross-check the assumptions behind our answers before using these answers to drive our decisions.

And although we can instantaneously communicate the outputs we produce, and the decisions we take based on these outputs, to others, we need to take into account the fact that the recipients of these outputs and decisions are humans. Humans process information differently depending on when they receive it, both on an absolute basis (for example, the time of day or on weekdays versus weekends) and on a relative basis (for example, relative to when they expect to receive it, which is in turn influenced by the importance of the output or decision and when you last communicated). As a result, the first moment when an output or decision is available for communication isn’t necessarily the right moment for its communication.

In other words, while technology makes it easy to act fast, as a result of our humanity, there are important benefits to inaction.

The challenges of an umbrella-sharing startup

This article about the challenges faced by an umbrella-sharing startup was the funniest piece of content I read this week.

I wanted to check whether the story is true or just a parody and, although I couldn’t find the company’s website, the number of credible news sources that covered the story suggest that it’s likely true.

It’s a useful reminder that X for Y startups, where X is a category-defining startup in a very large category and Y is a new category where company X’s model is applied, don’t work unless there’s a real customer need for X’s model to be applied to Y.

It’s also a reminder of the beauty of capitalism.

Here’s the article.

Ironman

Mert Salur is the son of Nazim Salur, the founder of Bitaksi, where we’re investors, and Getir.

I still remember when I first met Mert. At the time, he was training for the half Ironman. That’s a 1.9 KM swim followed by a 90 KM bike ride followed by a 21.1 KM run. It’s daunting to say the least, but Mert successfully completed it about 2 years ago.

Fast forward 2 years and Mert is now a full Ironman. That’s a 3.8 KM swim followed by a 180 KM bike ride followed by a 42.2 KM run.

It took Mert 11 hours, 12 minutes, and 55 seconds of non-stop physical extertion to complete the journey. Even people who exercise on a regular basis like myself find it difficult to exercise at that level of exertion for over an hour or two.

Here’s a blog post in which Mert shares his learnings from the arduous process of becoming an Ironman. The learnings are:

  1. Achievement necessitates preparation
  2. Listen
  3. Be patient
  4. Accept that you may not succeed this time, and that that is OK

As Mert shares, “now that I am an Ironman, I can set more difficult, distant, and unclear [mental] goals.” And that’s a goal worth striving for.

Congratulations Mert.

Failing gracefully

In a recent talk with a fellow investor, I shared how, the more data points I see, the more I believe that people who work together (for example as employees, partners, or investors) end up having a good relationship if their work together is successful and a bad relationship if they fail together.

Ideally, this shouldn’t be the case. Ideally, we should evaluate one another on the basis of the actions we take, that is what’s in our control, rather than the outcome of those actions, where external forces also influence the outcome. Doing so would mean that you should have a good relationship with someone with whom you experience a failure as long as you believe that they took the right actions during your time working together.

Following my remark, my fellow investor gave a great example of exactly that. Despite not being part of a successful outcome, the person in the example did indeed do what’s necessary to preserve a good relationship. And although this won’t always be the case, this graceful behavior laid the foundation for the two parties working together again in the future.

It’s easy to be graceful when you succeed together and everyone is happy. Celebrating is a better term for this than grace.

Grace is what you do when things go wrong. For example, it’s what you do when you fail together.

Although failing gracefully is rare, as my fellow investor pointed out, it does occur.

Comprehensive and piecemeal data sharing

There are two ways in which companies share their data with their existing investors. They either do so in a comprehensive or a piecemeal manner.

An example can help demonstrate what I mean by each. The P&L of an e-commerce company is relatively straightforward to understand so let’s use that as an example. The same argument holds for the KPI data of companies as well as companies with other business models.

A comprehensive approach to sharing an e-commerce company’s P&L data is to start off with gross revenue, subtract contra revenue items, state the net revenue, subtract the cost of goods sold, state the product margin, subtract variable expenses, state the gross margin, subtract marketing costs, state the contribution margin, subtract operating costs, state EBİTDA, subtract depreciation and amortization, net interest expenses, and taxes, and arrive at net income. This historical data is then presented on a monthly basis since the company’s launch.

A piecemeal approach is to state net revenue in a particular month, the growth of net revenue during a specific time period, the gross margin in the final month, and the EBITDA in that same final month. This naturally leads to the question of why these data points are being presented and not the others. Why is the company giving the investor specific pieces of a puzzle to solve rather than the complete picture?

The answer is very often that the solved puzzle doesn’t paint a great picture.

Waiting for the right team

Sometimes an investor comes across a team in a large market that they believe is likely to change in an important way, thereby presenting an attractive market opportunity.

However, the team isn’t just right. There’s something off which prevents you from getting comfortable making an investment.

On the other hand, it’s tempting to invest because you don’t want to miss out on the disruption that you foresee taking place in a big category.

At times like this, you need to remind yourself that, if the opportunity turns out to be as big as you believe it is, it will also attract the interest of other teams. And the eventual winner will be the team with the smart and hard working mover advantage, not the first mover advantage.

So you have to patiently wait to find the right team.